Thursday, November 19, 2009


Battleplan is not the Art of War. Certainly it is not as poetic, insightful, or as comprehensive as Sun Tzu’s work.

While many say the Art of War can be a great philosophy for both war and life in any age, the History Channel production, Battleplan, is still one of a kind for having clearly defined the steps of well known battle plans in the past 100 years.

One episode is one battle plan: a specific approach for the defeat of the enemy or for the achievement of specific objectives. And for each battle plan there are two examples.

If for example the attacker wants to use the navy, for that there is the episode Battle Fleet Action. Assault from the Air, is deploying ground troops through the air. Control of the Air, involves defeating the enemy air power first through one’s own air power. An Assault from the Sea is an amphibious assault like the Leyte Landings. Blitzkrieg, a term made popular by World War II Germany is a lightning approach to war, speed having the top priority. There is even an episode on guerilla war, with its most popular example in Vietnam.

Each plan is explained in a thesis like approach which the narrator describes as requirements. But like in a thesis those requirements seem more like stages since they need to be answered in a specific order. Like in a thesis, each chapter or stage needs to be well thought out.

Lining up the requirements are among others, Objectives, Means, Force Ratio, Intelligence, Follow Through, and Exit Strategy.

The narration then goes about defining each in accordance to the situation at hand, arranged almost in a FAQ (frequently ask questions) manner. What is an objective? What do you need to look for in making an objective for planning, for example, an Assault from the Air?

After defining and asking the questions for those requirements or to use some thesis writing parlance, chapters; the two examples for that battle plan are measured up to what is an ideal. Or if not explained in detail why it failed or succeeded or where it could have been improved.

The big surprise for me in this series is the requirement of Force Ratio which is a comparative analysis between one’s enemy force and the enemy. It’s not all about numbers but can also include among others training and morale.

I find it a surprise because even with a culture such as the military and in a war footing at that, some consideration still has to be made regarding the troops. Not necessarily for the sake of holding hands and being soft, it’s a war obviously; but the point I think is to leave no stone unturned. If the troops are not in the ideal physical and mental conditions it is still possible that any advantage in technology or numbers may be offset.

It’s not always about rank and orders. It’s about planning meticulously every single detail.

Honestly my dream documentary as far as war is concerned is about tactics especially those wars fought in antiquity by the likes of Caesar or Alexander, or as recent as Napoleon. I’ve been curious if armies did fight in neat formations like they do in diagrams of the ancient battles.

While Battleplan is not anything like my dream war documentary, it is better in the sense that it is all about preparation and strategy. Indeed the series is not the Art of War but being direct to the point and having examples of real battles, it works really great in its own way.